Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Do I Name Thee?

Thank you to all eleven thousand-- oh, excuse me, eleven-- people who took my poll about blog content. I appreciate you taking the time to click on the button (Did that sound sarcastic? I was going for self-deprecating). The number one blog (six votes, yo!) choice was how I name my characters, so here goes.

I first have to remember the names of my characters. Let's start there. You know how Brad Pitt somewhat recently said he thinks he has some disorder where he can't recognize a face that he's seen before? I think I have something like that about names. And I think it may make me seem like an asshole on occasion, but it's a real problem. Just the other day one of my daughter's friend's moms made fun of me for not knowing any of the other moms names in her class [ to which I say, a) why you gotta make fun of me?, b) at least I know all of the kids' names, and c) I swear none of them actually look like their names!]. So when I choose character names in books, I try to select names that match the characters. What was unique as I wrote The F-It List was that I was pregnant at the time. And because of all of the pregnancy troubles I had dealt with prior to this last pregnancy (that resulted in my now seven month-old son), I was struggling a lot with the idea that this pregnancy would actually result in producing a baby. Because of some new, intense testing, I knew very early on we were having a boy. But we really didn't have any boy names we completely loved. Because of this, the main male character in F-It, Leo, changed names a multitude of times. And I solicited people for name advice, which I do not normally do. Maybe it was so hard to name Leo because it was so hard to connect a name to the possibility of a baby. But I'll get back to Leo in a minute. Let's look at the two main female characters first.

Alex and Becca's names were based on two friends who helped and inspired pieces of F-It and made it possible for me to really understand what it was like to be a teen with cancer. In real life, Alex (or Allyx, as she spells it), was the person with cancer, and Becky, her friend. I thought Alex seemed more like a name for the tough-on-the-outside narrator, and Becca felt like a more romanticized version of the name Becky. Plus, I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea that these characters were completely based on real people. I am happy with my choices.

Looking at my list of characters, here are some name trivia tidbits:
  • Damien West was inspired by Damien Echols.
  • Eliza Klise has the last name of my good friend, writer James Klise.
  • Brandon Hathaway shares the last name of my longtime movie crush, Noah Hathaway.
  • Jenna Brown was originally Jenna Gold but had to be changed to be alphabetically locker correct.
  • Beth Sidell is a combination of Jewish friends from grade school (you probably see a lot of people named Beth, Liz, and with the last name Rubin in my books).
  • I kind of hate the name Lottie McDaniels.
  • Ms. Norton was the name of my first grade teacher.
  • The school nurse, Mrs. Kafcas, shares the last name of one of my close friends, as does the secretary, Mrs. Novack.
I chose Caleb for the home-schooled neighbor because it sounded religious to me. Not that the character is religious, but I pictured him being old-fashioned. He is definitely one of my favorite characters.

Back to Leo... I believe Leo started with the name Sam. It's a name I really like and one I think has a kindness to it. But then Matt and I thought maybe we would name our son Sam, so I had to take it out of the book. Then I changed it to Dean (fans of the TV show "Supernatural" will recognize those names), but Matt and I kind of liked that one, too, so it was gone. Looking back at emails with Liz, my editor, we came up with some other names like Griffin and Gabriel (but, again, Matt and I liked Gabriel, and Griffin to me seemed too trying-to-be-cool). Leo was semi-last minute, and I like it. I don't remember how I chose it, or even if I was the one who thought of it in the first place. I don't know if it fits the character as well as some of the previous names mentioned, but I knew I wouldn't name my kid Leo, so it was a safe choice. I'd be curious to know what you readers think!

And in case you didn't already know, we settled on Dean for the baby. It had a cool, 1950's vibe to it, and while it isn't a unique name it isn't very common these days, which we liked. It's short and simple, and if Romy and Dean decide to start a band, I think Romy and Dean has a cool ring to it. Truthfully, it's hard to tell if he's a "Dean," but I suppose he'll have to be. I hope he's as brave and loyal as Dean Winchester, his TV character namesake, and I certainly wouldn't mind if he turned out to be as good-looking. I do hope he has better luck with relationships. And, you know, doesn't go to Hell. [None of this will make sense to you unless you watch "Supernatural."] Naming a baby and a book character is a lot of responsibility. I hope I chose wisely!


Betsy said...

When I was a kid, I always wanted a minimum of 6 kids because I love coming up with names for babies. I kept increasing the number of kids I would have because I kept liking more and more names. I was also convinced I really wanted two sets of twins and a set of triplets. Now I'm an adult and only have stepchildren. If I was better at writing, I'd start writing books so I could use all my awesome name ideas.

Glad to see you're back blogging!

Ronni Selzer said...

LOVE this post, Julie! Naming characters is soooo important for me... maybe too important because it can be crippling for me if I don't have the right name. I love hearing the process. Authors can talk to me about naming their characters all day. Thanks for sharing.

Also, Dean is a fantastic name.

Julie H said...

Betsy, I always find it funny when kids have plans for their kids/weddings. You could always get a lot of pets! And thank you, Ronni! About the blog and the baby name!

ars said...

When I found out your baby was named dean, I was really hoping it had to do with supernatural. And my age group atleast still pines over then name leo.